LAYTON — H. Robert Campbell came in second place for an 1849 Mormon $10 gold piece in December, but his disappointment was short-lived because a month later, he successfully claimed an 1849 Mormon $20 gold piece.
The $20 piece is certified MS-62 and valued at $1.2 million, and now Campbell — president of Salt Lake City-based All About Coins Inc. — is preparing for it to be displayed for the first time in public.
Campbell will show the piece at the 49th Annual Northern Utah Coin Show on Friday and Saturday at the Davis Conference Center, 1651 N. 700 West, Layton.
“When you’re talking about the finest knowns, you’re usually talking about mint state examples, but the only mint state example of the $10 one is the one the church recovered out of the cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple,” Campbell said.
Campbell claims the $20 piece is “the finest one known and the most valuable of all of them.”
“And I would know because I’ve seen everybody else’s,” Campbell said.
Campbell touts his $20 piece as being in “miraculous, uncirculated condition” and said notable numismatist David Hall declared his piece “the finest of all the 1849 Mormon gold coin issues.”
“This coin combines the finest-known technical quality, outstanding eye appeal and intense historic interest,” Campbell said.
According to Campbell, his $20 piece was found in 2016 in a safety deposit box by an unknown collector and taken to a coin shop on the East Coast. The coin was subsequently authenticated and certified before being purchased by a collector from Idaho, who then put it up for auction where Campbell was able to purchase it for $720,000.
Ironically, Campbell was the middleman who sold the piece to the Idaho collector.
“Because he asked me to track down and to acquire it for him, I was obligated to sell it. I couldn’t just buy it and keep it,” Campbell said.
The $20 piece is the largest denomination in the Mormon gold series, which also includes denominations of $2.50, $5 and $10.
“The obverse features the all-seeing eye of Jehovah below a three pointed Phrygian cap, or mitre, as the central device,” according to a news release. “This was the emblem of the Mormon priesthood. The legend HOLINESS.TO.THE.LORD was around the periphery. The reverse pictured two clasped hands above the date in the center, with G.S.L.C.P.G. (Great Salt Lake City Pure Gold) and TWENTY DOLLARS around.”
The coins in the Mormon gold series began to be circulated after the California Gold Rush began on Jan. 24, 1848. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were part of the Mormon Battalion, approximately 500 volunteers who fought for the U.S. Army in the Mexican-American War in 1846-47, were in California when James Marshall, foreman of Sutter’s Saw Mill in the city of Coloma, made the gold discovery that kicked off the Gold Rush.
The gold dust procured by Battalion veterans helped resolve the problem of a lack of coinage in the Salt Lake City area. According to Campbell, all but about 20-25 of the $20 gold pieces have since been melted down.
The coin show will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.